Barack Obama’s Foreign Policy updated

Well, I’ve been complaining about it and today he finally did it. Clemons
and TPM
have the full speech. I’ve got some thoughts.

It’s an ambitious speech, as I’m sure Mr. Obama felt was necessary. But it’s
not the speech of the 21st century, in my estimation. It is riddled with the
same old talking points we’ve been hearing for years from our candidates, with
some alarming assumptions weaved in. For instance:

In today’s globalized world, the security of the American people is
inextricably linked to the security of all people. When narco-trafficking
and corruption threaten democracy in Latin America, it’s America’s
problem too. When poor villagers in Indonesia have no choice but to send chickens
to market infected with avian flu, it cannot be seen as a distant concern.
When religious schools in Pakistan teach hatred to young children, our children
are threatened as well.

Whether it’s global terrorism or pandemic disease, dramatic climate
change or the proliferation of weapons of mass annihilation, the threats we
face at the dawn of the 21st century can no longer be contained by borders
and boundaries.

The horrific attacks on that clear September day awakened us to this new
reality. And after 9/11, millions around the world were ready to stand with
us. They were willing to rally to our cause because it was their cause too
– because they knew that if America led the world toward a new era of
global cooperation, it would advance the security of people in our nation
and all nations.

Isolationism isn’t the key, but neither is the type of language that hints
that your problems are our problems. Coalitions to handle the world’s
problems are one way to assess where we stand today in a time of globalization,
but to say that our security is “inextricably linked” to the “security
of all people” makes me nervous. As we have learned, sometimes our security
is inexplicably linked to minding our own business, especially when we don’t
understand the tribal cultures in another part of the world.

The other problem is that third paragraph above. I’m sick of hearing it, aren’t
you? The truth is that someone should make a speech saying September 11th awakened
us to how sound asleep we’d been. Like the VA Tech killer, there were warning
signs long before 9/11. Why did we miss them? Just once I wish a Democratic
politician would talk about how clueless we were from the Marine barracks bombing,
into Daddy Bush’s presidency and beyond. There was no “new reality”
on 9/11. We just woke up to look at the history that preceded it to find out
that we’d missed our enemy’s footsteps.

Obama’s plan for Iraq is a lot like Clinton’s, which is unlikely to make anyone
happy. But as has been proven, their votes in the Senate on Iraq are exactly alike, too.

I acknowledged at the time that there are risks involved in such an approach.
That is why my plan provides for an over-the-horizon force that could prevent
chaos in the wider region, and allows for a limited number of troops to remain
in Iraq to fight al Qaeda and other terrorists.

As for me, I believe we will have a force in the region, so I differ from the
Richardson view and many others as well. I just don’t want temporary or permanent
bases in Iraq.

When Obama talks about “we can and must work with Russia to make sure
every one of its nuclear weapons and every cache of nuclear material is secured,”

he is talking about the most important national security threat we face, unsecured
nuclear material. Good for him.

Scott Paul over
at Clemons’ place
finds Obama’s “free ourselves from our dependence
on foreign oil” line “bad.” I agree. There is absolutely nothing
I can find that says we can get off of foreign oil. It’s a good line, but that’s
all it is. However, that doesn’t mean we can’t develop alternative fuels. I’m
just not impressed with political lines for their own sake. Hey, but we all
know pols do it, right?

I also hate lines like this:

No President should ever hesitate to use force – unilaterally if necessary – to protect ourselves and our vital interests when we are attacked or imminently threatened. … ..

It’s the line politicians believe has to be said in order to show you’re tough. Frankly, it’s the always expected out macho the Republicans line. It means nothing, so why
say it? To show you’re not a wuss. But let’s face it, no United States president would ever do anything less. Don’t we know that by now? If a candidate was really brave and
truly believed our security was interconnected with others around the globe
he or she might offer that the way to global security in the 21st century is
through diplomacy and coalition partnerships that leverage power to make war
too dangerous to wage; too risky to start, because the world peacemakers are
lined up against frivolous wars in a united effort to forestall all wars.

An old video of one of the experts who has blogged here at, as well as Clemons’ Washington Note, Charles Peña, has it right on this whole line of use of force and the un-war on terror, I think. Watch it, you’ll see.

Changing the rhetoric, however, would take a 21st century mind who actually believes fighting for
peace and a more muscular State Department is a tougher stance than pontificating that no President should ever
hesitate to use force – unilaterally if necessary – to protect ourselves
and our vital interests when we are attacked or imminently threatened.

After Iraq, does any leader or nation of people believe that isn’t true of the

It’s a good effort, even if it seems like the same old, same old to me.

UPDATE: Matt Stoller has the short version of Obama’s speech. It’s classic.